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In what was a somewhat passed-right-through part of Manhattan, a new “neighborhood” is emerging and at its heart is a transportation link. Nothing new, really, for the City of New York—neighborhoods have always followed the availability of transportation. From the ferries and then bridges that connected Brooklyn to Manhattan, to the growth of The Bronx when the IRT arrived; this is just the way it is. And to be sure, this new part of town is not a pastoral neighborhood-to-be, but its hustle will never become a bustle without the new Hudson Yards subway stop.
All photographs © John R. Harris
24mm; ISO 400; f/6.3; 1/1250-second
11mm; ISO 400; f/4; 1/1600-second
This veritable Oz is sprouting just to the west of our retail home at Ninth Avenue and 34th Street. Several massive skyscrapers, retail and cultural spaces and a public square are all connected to the rest of the city by this new subway station that extends the 7 train almost to the Hudson River. The main station entrance seems to emerge from the ground like a cobra—hooded, protected, biding in the newly planted brush at 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. The future remains to be seen for this part of Manhattan, of course, but with the massive investments around the High Line, which runs along the Western edge of the Hudson Yards, and the ceaseless demand for real estate opportunities, my feeling is that what was once an overlooked part of the city will soon be a commercial and cultural hub to rival a similar development from generations earlier—Rockefeller Center.
11mm; f/5; 1/30-second
24mm; f/4; 1/60-second
11mm; f/4.5; 1/40-second
Using the 11-24mm lens, The Funktional Vibrations mosaic by Xenobia Bailey takes on different characteristics, depending on focal length and proximity.
For visitors to the B&H SuperStore, already very close to the A-C-E subway line, this station is a somewhat more bucolic entrance to our part of town and, hopefully, another reason for you to come see us. To show off this new subway station, I brought the also-new and undoubtedly impressive Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens on an EOS 6D to this new terminus, whose futuristic (does that word even mean anything anymore?) design and funky, celestial-inspired mosaics are ideal for a lens with such a wide set of focal lengths.
The lens is large—heavier and longer than similar zooms from Nikon and Sigma and the well-known workhorse EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II, but its feel is wonderful and both the zoom and manual focus action are as smooth as you would ever want. The bulbous front element protrudes almost as far as the built-in lens hood, which is its sole protection from impact. With its front-heavy build and no thread to attach a protective filter, you must be very careful not to scratch or otherwise damage the lens. This is definitely a concern, but something that is relatively commonplace with extreme wide-angle lenses; the difference in this case being its size and weight. Between the focus and zoom rings, this weather-sealed barrel has an AF/MF selector switch and the distance scale—nothing else. The focal-length scale is between the zoom ring and the lens mount, and that’s pretty much it.
Passageway from turnstiles to mezzanine at 11mm focal length
Outwardly, the lens is unadorned, plain, but on the inside it is incredible. The one Super UD (Ultra Low Dispersion) and one UD element help to reduce chromatic aberrations significantly for improved clarity and color accuracy. Four aspherical elements help to minimize distortions throughout the zoom range. Yes, there is distortion, a spread, and mild softness of figures in the corners of the frame but, given its ambitious angle of view and in comparison to other similar lenses, it is a minor reservation. Noticeable also is a degree of vignetting at the widest angles when at f/4, but again minimal, and easily corrected in post process if so desired. A Subwavelength Coating (SWC) and an Air Sphere Coating (ASC) have been applied to lens elements to reduce backlit flaring and ghosting for improved light transmission in difficult lighting conditions. This is important, given that with such a wide perspective, sun and other light sources will often be in frame. In my experience and corroborated by many, for optical quality, this lens, the widest full-frame (non-fisheye) lens available, is exceptional.
Extreme wide angle distorts perspective of escalator (it' s going down).
A ring-type Ultrasonic Motor, along with an internal focusing system, high-speed CPU, and optimized AF algorithms, are employed to deliver precise and near-silent autofocus performance, and full-time manual focus override enables precise control. Nine rounded diaphragm blades contribute to pleasing out-of-focus highlights and will create 18-point sun stars. A rear drop-in type filter holder is provided.
11mm; f/10; 1/200-second
11mm; f/5.6; 1/60-second
Escalator to station exit and view across the street from top of escalator
While this rectilinear lens is very useful for cityscape and landscape photography—and converging lines and shape and spatial chicanery can be fun in general photography—using it in a tight interior space may be its ideal application. It would be fair to question the usefulness of a zoom lens that is almost all extreme wide-angle, but having the ability to go from an inclusive but still expository 24mm to an 11mm, almost fisheye 126° swath of view without changing lenses and with the confidence of optical excellence, is a true advantage when shooting architecture and real estate—interiors and exteriors. And the Hudson Yards subway station, with its deep escalators, inclined elevators, curved and torquing entrances and colorful art, is the perfect space to show off this very fine lens.